The sections below summarise the lessons learned across the two case studies: the insights drawn from the analysis of BTR activity on crowfunding platforms as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the methods used. The last section offers a few recommendations as to how to those methods could be further developed to improve their efficiency in identifying BTR organisations on Crowdfunder and Spacehive.
The notion of BTR organisations as those being under the regulatory radar seems appropriate for the purpose of developing automated data collection methods. Nonetheless, when conducting the case studies it became apparent that for a richer understanding on BTR activity on crowdfunding platforms, a more nuanced analysis of the projects and organisations identified using those methods was needed.
In doing so, it was found that BTR activity appears combined in varied ways with that of registered organisations and governmental bodies. Thus, individuals and organisations behind crowdfunding projects that remind under the regulatory radar can however be seeing as being above other types of radar, such as the ‘policy radar’ or the ‘support radar’.1.
The former is the case for those projects on Spacehive that were granted official permission, receive support from local councils or are even partially run by people holding public offices. The later is the case for all those crowdfunding projects that receive support from other organisations -in the form of funding, material resources or spaces- in order to guarantee their continuity.
It was also noted a salient trend in the BTR projects found on both platforms that reflects on a pervasive feature of BTR activity across the UK: the creation of green spaces to learn and put into practice environmental values and skills through a variety of activities offered to community members at no cost as part of their philosophy. These spaces range from environmental centres to farms and community gardens, both in cities and rural areas.
With regard to the methods deployed to map BTR activity and organisation on both platforms, two are the main insights drawn from the case studies. One the one hand, co-link analysis seems a suitable method to map new projects thematically related, both in terms of having a similar purpose and a similar theme. Applying this method to Spacehive would allow to obtain better results, however this is not possible at present due to the lack of the relational data required on this platform.
On the other hand, both methods aimed at checking whether social projects on crowfunding platforms are indeed running by BTR and not other type of organisations would have to be improved to overcome the limitations earlier described. Regardless of their respective limitations, the method based on using the pertinent registers provides a more consistent approach in checking for the legal status of organisations.
In summary, co-link analysis is valid method to map new projects thematically related, which if combined with a second method to checks the legal status of the organisations behind those projects, can serve to efficiently identify BTR groups in crowdfunding platforms. Having the data in a format that suits methodological requirements would allow to make the necessary improvements to both methods, co-link analysis and the method based on the registers. To that aim, it seems that a form of partnership with the platforms concerned would be crucial.
Thus, for instance, making available through an API the data required to deploy co-link analysis would allow the development of a more robust application. Likewise, it would be extremely useful if platforms would enable a mechanism to make users enter as the project owner / promoter username the name of the organisation they work for whenever they are acting on its behalf. This would make it possible to systematically identify registered organisations on the registers used.
1McCabe, A., Phillimore, J. 2009. Exploring below the radar: issues of theme and focus.http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/generic/tsrc/documents/tsrc/working-papers/working-paper-8.pdf